Prince Edward Theatre

30 Old Compton Street,
London, W1D 4HS

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April 10, 2006

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Located in London’s West End in the centre of the Soho district. Opened on April 3, 1930 as the Prince Edward Theatre with the musical comedy “Rio Rita”. Seating was provided for 1,800 in orchestra stalls, dress circle and balcony levels and stage boxes. Designed by noted cinema architect Edward A. Stone, with the exterior in red and yellow brick in the style of an Italian palace. The Art Deco style interior decorations were by Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet. Although built as a live theatre, it was equipped for film presentations from the start, and screened its first film “Song O' My Heart” in May 1930. During the early-1930’s it was often used during the day for film trade shows.

The Prince Edward Theatre was closed in 1935, when new owners took over and converted it into cabaret/restaurant known as the London Casino. The owners also operated the French Casino in New York and the Casino in Miami, Florida. Conversion entailed the construction of stairways from the orchestra stalls to the dress circle, and a semi-circular dance floor on the stage. The London Casino opened on 2nd April 1936 with “Folies Parisiennes”, and the shows were interchanged with New York and Miami. The French Casino in New York went bankrupt, but the London Casino was quite successful, and continued until 1940, when the German blitz on London caused it to close.

In July 1942, it was converted into the Queensbury All Services Club, used to entertain the troops. This continued until the end of World War II in 1945. The London Casino re-opened was re-converted back to a live theatre, opening on 14th October 1946 with “Pick-Up-Girl”, and was now under the control of Tom Arnold and Emile Littler. A revival of “The Dancing Years” was staged in March 1947, and this was followed by seasons of variety with international stars topping the bill, ballet seasons and annual pantomimes also features in the programming. In 1949 Robert Nesbitt’s “Latin Quarter” revue was staged and this ran for several years. In 1953 Cecely Cortneidge starred in the Vivian Ellis revue “Over the Moon”, which was followed by the holiday-camp musical “Wish You Were Here”.

In 1954, the London Casino was altered by architects Frank Baessler and TPH & E Braddock to house London’s first Cinerama cinema with a massive 64-foot-wide curved screen and three projection boxes built in the orchestra stalls. “This Is Cinerama” opened in October 1954 at the Casino Cinerama Theatre. The Cinerama screen was eventually removed in 1974, with a more conventional screen replacing it until 8th April 1978 when it closed as the Casino Cinema with a double-bill of Diana Ross films “Lady Sings the Blues” and “Mahogany”.

On return to live shows in June 1978, it reverted back to its original name, Prince Edward Theatre, opening with the world premiere production of “Evita”. The musical ran for over eight successful years

A further major alteration and renovations by the architectural firm RHWL in 1993, has modernized the auditorium and made it more attractive than at any time in its history.

It is now a major theatre in London’s West End and has played long runs of “Chess”, Anything Goes", “Show Boat” “Mama Mia” and “Mary Poppins” and “Jersey Boys.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 8, 2007 at 7:51 am

This was originally supposed to be called the Ziegfeld Theatre and would have been the London showcase for Florenz Ziegfeld’s Broadway stage productions. But while the theatre was under construction, Ziegfeld fell out with the owners and the deal was canceled. Too late, however, to abort a production of “Rio Rita,” which had also been the premiere attraction at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. “Rio Rita” opened on schedule, but with the theatre’s name changed to Prince Edward.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on August 8, 2007 at 9:48 am

Unlike New York, the show “Rio Rita” starring Edith Day & Geoffrey Gwyther, was not a success in London and only ran for 59 performaces.

AlAlvarez
AlAlvarez on August 9, 2007 at 10:18 am

Ken, The Earl Carrol did show movies between shows in 1928-1930 including, ironically, premiering the film version of RIO RITA in 1929. It also may have showed films as the Casino in 1934.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 10, 2007 at 7:38 am

When the Ziegfeld deal fell through, the theatre was re-named Prince Edward in honor of the current heir-apparent to the English throne. I wonder how many people attending the Prince Edward Theatre today realize that it’s named for someone who became legendary as the Duke of Windsor, a peerage created from him in 1937 after he abdicated as King in order to marry an American divorcee?

Ian
Ian on August 11, 2007 at 11:46 am

A 1988 photo – when Chess was playing – here:–

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Ian
Ian on November 4, 2007 at 12:43 pm

A couple of recent interior shots here:–

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AdoraKiaOra
AdoraKiaOra on November 4, 2007 at 1:52 pm

Prior to this stunning renovation and rebuild it was a monstrous auditorium with little if any charm. Cameron has done an amzing job here and beteen Mary Poppins closing and Jersey Boys opens he is doing even more to make this an even better experience. He is doing tremendous work on all the West End houses he owns.

Ian
Ian on January 26, 2011 at 2:39 am

Some pre-renovation shots from 1991, I am not sure I would call it monstrous, but it is certainly vastly improved now!!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/5389934880/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/5389934680/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stagedoor/5389329963/

KitGreen
KitGreen on September 21, 2011 at 11:38 am

I saw Song Of Norway (70 mm Super-Cinerama)here in 1970. A very odd experience.

Bill_Gibbs
Bill_Gibbs on May 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

The Cinerama screen didn’t look “at home” in this theatre! It somehow looked wider than the proscenium!

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